A robot designed to complete a unique task was unveiled at this year’s SXSW. The Preservation Robot protects global cultural diversity by automatically placing images of diverse groups from around the world into open spaces on the Internet.
The robot is the brain child of photographic artist Jimmy Nelson. He says that technology is rapidly spreading Western culture around the globe and threatens diversity.
“The decline of cultural diversity would perhaps seem a less urgent problem than some of our other global issues. However, the erosion of cultural identity throughout the planet and the loss of traditions and customs has far-reaching and profound effects on all of us. Indigenous culture is visually underrepresented – and often misrepresented. I’m taking a stand by launching The Preservation Robot. Using technology to invert homogenization,”said Nelson at the unveiling of the robot at SXSW.
One of the co-creators of The Preservation Robot, Bas Korsten, creative partner at J. Walter Thompson Amsterdam, joined Nelson at the unveiling. According to Korsten, the robot’s goal is to help release Western culture’s “stranglehold” on the world.
“We, the people working in tech and advertising, are propagating that same culture. If not as the agents – then certainly as the enablers. This is why the idea of using technology – the very thing that threatens cultural diversity – against itself to promote cultural diversity is so compelling. This is the aim of The Preservation Robot. A robot to help humans preserve their cultural identity,” Korsten said at SXSW.
The Ongoing Threat to Diverse Groups
Technology and industrialization have been taking a toll on indigenous peoples worldwide. In 2012, The Guardian put a spotlight on the decimation of an indigenous Amazon tribe, the Awa, by logging companies.
Isolated, indigenous people under threat came into the news recently after John Allen Chau, an American Christian missionary, was killed by the Sentinelese people. Chau had made several attempts to engage with members of the tribe who gave him several warnings to keep away from them, before he was killed.[Watch: The Preservation Robot]:
And Survival International wrote about the threat to the Bushmen, the indigenous people of South Africa who were displaced from their homeland by the diamond industry. They also had their water supply destroyed.
Nelson sees The Preservation Robot as a way to halt the decline of indigenous populations. According to a statement in a press release; “[Nelson] believes that exposing the world to the richness and range of indigenous peoples is the way to safeguard not only their traditions and ways of life, but also to bolster one of humanity’s greatest values: cultural diversity.”